Wonder Wanderings 5: Light is Smart

Wonder Wanderings is a periodic blog series at Melody+Theology, where I point out fascinating things I’ve come across in my reading wanderings. These amazing things show us an amazing God and yet another reason to marvel at His power and creativity.

refracted-1525452-639x852.jpgSnell’s Law describes how light rays bend when they pass from air into water, as they do when the sun shines into a swimming pool. Light moves more slowly in water, … and it bends accordingly to minimize its travel time. Similarly, light bends when it travels from air into glass or plastic, as when it refracts through your eyeglass lenses.

The eerie point is that light behaves as if it were considering all possible paths and then taking the best one. Nature—cue the them from The Twilight Zone—somehow knows calculus.

— Steven Strogatz, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity, 137.

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Wonder Wanderings 4: Pixelized Moon

Wonder Wanderings is a weekly blog series at Melody+Theology, where I point out fascinating things I’ve come across in my reading wanderings. These amazing things show us an amazing God and yet another reason to marvel at His power and creativity.

saturn-hd-planet-1152093-640x360I can’t remember where I first came across this, but it’s mind-boggling. Pixels are the miniscule dots that combine to form the images on your screen; your screen resolution is the number of dots horizontally and vertically.

If the moon were the size of one of those dots, this is the size of our solar system to scale. Every picture you’ve ever seen in any book or website of our solar system has never been to scale; here’s why.

If the Moon Were One Pixel

Having seen that, think about this:

When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place, what is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him? (Psalm 8:3-4 HCSB).

The heavens were made by the word of the LORD and all the stars, by the breath of His mouth (Psalm 33:6 HCSB).

He counts the number of the starsHe gives names to all of them (Psalm 147:4 HCSB).

Wonder Wanderings 3: Fine-Tuning

Wonder Wanderings is a weekly blog series at Melody+Theology, where I point out fascinating things I’ve come across in my reading wanderings. These amazing things show us an amazing God and yet another reason to marvel at His power and creativity.

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Imagine covering the entire North American continent in dimes and stacking them until they reached the moon. Now imagine stacking just as many dimes again on another billion continents the same size as North America. If you marked one of those dimes and hid it in the billions of piles you’d assembled, the odds of a blindfolded friend picking out the correct dime is approximately 1 in 10^37–the same level of precision required in the strong nuclear force and the expansion rate of the universe.

Imagine stretching a measuring tape across the entire known universe. Now imagine one particular mark on the tape represents the correct degree of gravitational force required to create the universe we have. If this mark were moved more than one inch from its location (on a measuring tape spanning the entire universe), the altered gravitational force would prevent our universe from coming into existence.

Imagine trying to fire a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe. The accuracy required to accomplish such a feat has been calculated at 1 in 10^60. Compare this to the precision required in calibrating the mass density of the universe (fine-tuned to within 1 unit in 10^59).

Imagine comparing the universe to an aircraft carrier like the USS John C. Stennis (measuring 1,092 feet long with a displacement of 100,000 tons). If this carrier were as fine-tuned as the mass density of our universe, subtracting a billionth of a trillionth of the mass of an electron from the total mass of the aircraft carrier would sink the ship.

Starting to appreciate the level of fine-tuning in the foundational particles and forces in the universe?

— J. Warner Wallace, God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, Kindle Location 628.

Wonder Wanderings 2: Baseball

Wonder Wanderings is a weekly blog series at Melody+Theology, where I point out fascinating things I’ve come across in my reading wanderings. These amazing things show us an amazing God and yet another reason to marvel at His power and creativity.

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Throwing is hard. In order to deliver a baseball to a batter, a pitcher has to release the ball at exactly the right point in the throw. A timing error of half a millisecond in either direction is enough to cause the ball to miss the strike zone.

To put that into perspective, it takes about five milliseconds for the fastest nerve impulse to travel the length of the arm. That means that when your arm is still rotating toward the correct position, the signal to release the ball is already at your wrist. In terms of timing, this is like a drummer dropping a drumstick from the tenth story and hitting a drum on the ground on the correct beat.

— Randall Munroe, What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, 169 (emphasis original).

Wonder Wanderings 1: DNA

Wonder Wanderings is a weekly blog series at Melody+Theology, where I point out fascinating things I’ve come across in my reading wanderings. These amazing things show us an amazing God and yet another reason to marvel at His power and creativity.

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DNA is source code for the most complex machine in the known universe. Each chromosome contains a staggering amount of information, and the interaction between DNA and the cell machinery around it is incredibly complicated, with countless moving parts and Mousetrap-style feedback loops. Even calling DNA ‘source code’ sells it short–compared to DNA, our most complex programming projects are like pocket calculators.

— Randall Munroe, What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, 164.